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Razib Khan's Unsupervised Learning

Jan 4, 2023

What is a democracy? Is American democracy in danger? And should we care about the possibilities for democracy in the Middle East? On this episode of Unsupervised Learning Razib talks to Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at Brookings, an assistant professor at Fuller Seminary, a contributor to The Atlantic, co-host of the Wisdom of Crowds podcast and website, and now the author of his own Substack and a recent book, The Problem of Democracy: America, the Middle East, and the Rise and Fall of an Idea. Before getting into the meat of the discussion, Hamid and Razib reflect on the meaning and importance of the Christmas season, the very positive opinion of Jesus held by Muslims, and Hamid’s views about the secularization of the United States over his lifetime.

They then dig into the view from political science over the last decade about the decline of faith in American democracy and the crisis of confidence in the institution in both the Middle East and the US. Hamid reflects on his experience observing the Arab Spring and the rise and fall of democracy in Egypt and how it might offer lessons on a polarized America. Next, they talk about The Problem of Democracy and how liberalism and democracy are assumed to be necessary twins in the modern Western political system but are indeed not in the Middle East and may not be in America’s future.

Finally, Hamid discusses what it is like to be an anti-woke brown American liberal and what it’s like to so often be on the receiving end of censure and opprobrium from his own political camp. He muses on the future of liberalism and how things look from the viewpoint of a Muslim American in an age when the War on Terror is truly in the rearview mirror.